The answer may be the key, but nobody is asking the question; all eyes are instead focused on another one, one that garnered a lot more coverage in the news. No, the question isn’t, “Where is Barbara Holland?” The question is, “When will the Yankees bullpen receive reinforcements?”
Much like the people of Hawkins, Indiana, spent far more time worrying about the disappearance of a young Will Byers and completely ignored that of a high school girl, both Yankees fans and reporters have repeatedly voiced their frustration at the Yankees starting rotation and expressed interest in acquiring another starter, while completely ignoring the uncertainty that is the bullpen. On the surface, this makes some sense, as the Yankees clearly could use another starting pitcher (especially since Luis Severino is no guarantee to return to the rotation for at least six weeks), and Brian Cashman has outright said that he is in the market for a starting pitcher.
But although few have noticed it, the Yankees bullpen could use some reinforcement. Aroldis Chapman and the Holy Trinity of Setup Men (Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton, and Tommy Kahnle) have dominated for the most part this season, giving up a combined 44 runs in 181 innings, and have largely allowed manager Aaron Boone to all but guarantee a win after five innings when all four are available.
Outside of them, however, the bullpen is full of question marks, as Chad Green has struggled at times this season, Nestor Cortes Jr. is still only 24 years old, David Hale is grossly outperforming his career norms, and Luis Cessa is Luis Cessa. It would behoove the Yankees to add a bullpen arm and take the stress of their top guys — especially if Dellin Betances suffers another setback.
How to add another bullpen piece, particularly when tradeable assets need to be earmarked for a starting pitcher, is not the only problem the Yankees need to solve, though. Twenty-year-old Deivi Garcia has put himself on the map this year as a top-flight pitching prospect and has shot through the minors, earning himself a promotion to Triple-A Scranton following his start at the Futures Game despite starting the season in Tampa. Many have wondered if we could see him in the Bronx this year, and the Yankees brass have acknowledged that he is certainly playing his way into the conversation.
This is, in itself, the exact opposite of a problem: teams want their young players to force the team to promote them through their performance. Yet Garcia has already thrown 68.2 innings this year, just six fewer than his career high of 74, set last season. Undoubtedly, his innings will be managed for the rest of the season; Scranton has even begun using a six-man rotation for this very reason. There is still more than a month left of the Scranton season, however, and should he play himself into the Yankees rotation, he will likely blow well past 100 innings — a massive increase over last season. It will be hard for the Yankees to find a way to keep this total down with him as a starter.
Sending Deivi Garcia into the bullpen for the rest of the season — whether or not he receives a call to the Bronx — could be the solution to both of these problems. By using him as a power arm out of the bullpen and limiting him to short appearances, the Yankees can keep him from being shut down before the end of the season, allowing him to be available down the stretch. Best-case scenario, Garcia could inject a Joba-like boost into the bullpen, giving Aaron Boone another shutdown reliever that could be a major factor come October.
If he struggles out of the bullpen, he will still have leftover innings that will allow him to receive a cup of coffee during the month of September, which will give him some big league experience before he attempts to take a rotation spot in 2020, while keeping his total innings at manageable levels. In either case, the Yankees stand to benefit from this solution, possibly in 2019 and — so long as Garcia is the real deal — beyond.